How Will Blake Griffin and Jeff Green Coexist?
All season long, it’s been the Golden State Warriors, the San Antonio Spurs and then everyone else.
The Los Angeles Clippers are desperate to change that.
In January, I spent a few days in Los Angeles and had an opportunity to chat with a few Clippers. This came on the heels of one of the club’s East Coast road trips and what became apparent was that the group was hungry. A deeper team than they were last year, it seemed that the Clippers had endured the heartbreak that is usually a prerequisite to attaining the highest level of success in the NBA after squandering a 3-1 series lead to the Houston Rockets in last season’s playoffs.
Now, in a season that has been marked by roster turnover, injuries and inconsistency, the Clippers have found contributions from just about every man on their roster in their quest to remain amongst the top four in the Western Conference. Now, even after suffering a few losses, everyone seems to be wondering what the Clippers will amount to once Blake Griffin returns to the lineup.
When Doc Rivers pulled the trigger to acquire Jeff Green on February 18, he netted the franchise a combo forward who is as talented as he is inconsistent. Since joining the ball club a month ago, Green has had high and low moments and has proven to be both a capable defender and floor spacer. What he is not, though, is Griffin. While Green’s 11.2 points and 3.9 rebounds come in handy for the Clippers, his best contribution to the team would probably best be found by playing alongside Griffin, not in his stead.
Since joining the Clippers, Green is shooting 38 percent from beyond the three-point arc. With his ability to guard multiple front court positions and finish around the rim, he is cut from the mold of the typical “stretch four” that allows teams in today’s NBA to both play small and still find success. As the Clippers close out their season, though, the look of a Green-Griffin front court remains a mystery.
The bigger mystery, though—and one that has quietly hovered over the club since DeAndre Jordan’s decision to renege on his deal with the Dallas Mavericks—is what will become of these Clippers if they fail to show evident progress in these upcoming playoffs.
Unfortunately for the club, per CBS Sports, Griffin may not return until April. After having played roughly three months without one of their featured players, after necessarily morphing into a more perimeter-oriented team and after adding a new rotation piece, one has to wonder whether the Clippers will be able to adequately readjust with Griffin upon his return. It is something that Jamal Crawford seems to wonder aloud, as well.
With their seemingly weak bench fortified with the likes of Wesley Johnson, Paul Pierce, Luc Mbah a Moute and the recently added Jeff Green, it seemed as though the Clippers had everything they needed to fight to get to the next level. What we have repeatedly seen over the course of history, though, is that all the pieces in the world will do you no good if Lady Luck doesn’t happen to be on your side.
For Chris Paul—one of the toughest competitors this generation has seen—the shock and awe that was all over his face in the aftermath of last season’s Game 7 against the Houston Rockets is a memory he has been hoping to replace. To a man, these Clippers have been waiting a long while to exorcise those haunting demons.
When and in what condition Blake Griffin returns will make all the difference in the world, and how he coexists with Jeff Green may make all the difference in the world.
The Race For Eighth
As we enter the final month of the regular season, entering play on March 16, only 2.5 games separate the sixth through ninth seeds in the Western Conference. As the Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and Utah Jazz jockey for position, the Mavericks may hold most of the cards. With a relatively difficult remaining schedule that will see them play 10 games against teams with winning records, we are paying close attention to their home-and-home series with the Blazers on March 20 and March 23, as well as their April 6 battle with the Rockets.
In the Eastern Conference, entering play on March 16, only four games separate the fifth through ninth seeds. As the Chicago Bulls seem to have improbably found themselves battling for their playoff lives, they will enjoy an upcoming stretch that will see the team play seven consecutive games against teams with losing records. Much to the chagrin of their competitors, a good showing in this important stretch could help the Bulls avoid the dubious distinction of failing to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
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